So, I mentioned in one of Jazzy's posts below that I don't think Oregon will be as tough as everyone else. I am much more worried about Air Force, TCU and BYU (not necessarily in that order). In fact, I am more worried about SJSU, because they will be dangerous if we overlook them.
Here, based on cfn.com and the 2008 Oregon statistics from the official ncaa statistics, is a look at Oregon's 2009 team and losses from 2008:
OL: As I discussed, Oregon has 1 returning offensive lineman and a combined total of 20 offensive line starts, good for 118th out of 120 IA college football teams. Offensive lines are made up of units and they need time together to gel. Oregon won't get it, facing a very good Utah D line. This year's line will consist of Sophomore Mark Asper (a 2* recruit from Ogden Utah, he's 6'8" but just got back from an LDS mission), Junior Jordan Holmes (a 2* recruit from CA, 6'4" but no other offers coming out of high school), Freshman Carson York (a 4* recruit from Idaho, he's 6'4" with a lot of offers), Junior Bo Thran (3* recruit from Oregon, had offers from OSU and Cal), and the only returning starter, Junior CE Kaiser (6'4"). There's a lot of meat on the line, and what appears to be a significant amount of talent, but as I've said 1000 times, Offensive Lines need time to gel. This one won't get any.
QB: Masoli is back after missing Purdue last year as well as being knocked out early in the Boise game. The kid's a gamer, no question. But working behind the reworked OL will make for some dangerous days for him. I don't know if he's as good under pressure, as he had 4 seniors and a sophomore protecting him last year.
RB: Jeremiah Johnson is gone, but Blount returns. Oregon had TWO 1000-yard rushers last season, although I know Blount won't be as effective this year behind the new OL and without Johnson to wear down the defense early. Still, Bount is a good player and shouldn't be overlooked.
WR: Two returning starters but they lost a couple of significant starters in Scott (750 yards, 50 catches, 5 tds) and Williams (35 catches for 430 yards and 4 tds). Still, there is some good talent here with some good experience. Luckily, we should be able to get some pressure on the QB. I am worried if they go 4 wide and run quick slants because these are some talented receivers.
So, to recap the offense, that's 4 returning starters (2 WR, 1 QB and 1 OL). Talent can make up for a lot, but experience is very very important in college football. I'd rather have a less-talented team full of seniors than a more talented team full of freshmen, in college. You'll win more often.
As for the Defense, well, that's not much different.
DL: 1 returning starter (Tukafu, a great player who will be a 3-year starter and came from SLC) but replacing both DTs and one DE. Tukafu is great, had 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last year. But, despite all the recruiting of DL, there's not much in the cupboard. Kenny Rowe (230 lbs) seems to be the other end, and I guess Simi Toeaina (Sr, played in only 5 games), and Blake Ferris (Sr, played in only 5 games) would be the natural choices.
LB: 2 returning starters (Matthews and Paysinger) are both solid, although I wouldn't consider either of them spectacular linebackers. The other starter will probably be Pleasant, the backup OLB last year. He saw very little time last year, mostly on special teams.
DB: 2 returning starters (one corner, Thurmond, and one safety, Ward). Both are seniors and both are very talented. There is also a lot of talented depth here, so I don't think they'll lose to much after losing their FS and CB to the NFL. Still, no substitute for quality starts.
So that's 5 returning starters on D. In comparison, Utah returns 3 OL, 1 RB, 2 WR (6) plus 3 DL, 3 LB and 2 DBs (8).
I guess I just don't understand the fear. Oregon is a solid, talented team, and Autzen is a very tough place to play, but they have a new coach, they've lost some players, and their OL (really the backbone of any offense) is completely rebuilt. And I know, other than Louisville and Michigan, both closer than they should have been, KW-coached teams have shown a difficulty with BCS teams on the road. But I think this is maybe the 4th or 5th toughest game on the schedule, not #1.